As I wrote last week, the “sandbox Euro” of Feudum is a handsome but troubled youngster. It’s got some great ideas, a slick sense of style, and knows it’s clever. But maybe that’s the problem. For everything it does right, it comes parcel with two exceptions, fussy rules, or instances where it stubbornly refuses to be streamlined.
Still, it’s hard to deny that this dizzying blend of movement puzzle, player-driven feudal holdings, and market manipulation taps into something desirable. The freedom of a sandbox game can be intoxicating, trusting players to pursue their goals with unusual latitude. Where most games offer an intensely curated experience, it’s a joy to be set loose within a set of systems and trusted to sink or swim, boom or bust.
So, as an alternative for those who might be thirsting after something a little more open-ended than usual, what follows are a bunch of my favorite sandbox-style games, ranked in order of their ascending complexity.
In a lot of ways, the list of features for Mark Swanson’s Feudum reads like a parody of an over-enthusiastic, under-developed Kickstarter product. What if I told you there was a sandbox game — not just any sandbox game, but a Euro sandbox game — that features area control, action card selection, multiple avenues of improving your holdings, various forms of feudal warfare, roving monsters, a guild system to manipulate and constantly update, a complex market to bully, movement puzzles, peasant uprisings, noble pilgrimages, and persnickety rules exceptions to all of the above?
If you had even a single ounce of sense in your head, hopefully you’d save yourself eighty dollars by running the other direction.